How a young jeweller went from a market stall to 27 staff and two capital city stores

Hannah Vasicek abandoned her plans for a legal career to establish Francesca Collections. Here she explains how she scaled up from a market stall to popular retail stores in Hobart and Melbourne.

By age 13, Hannah Vasicek was already an entrepreneur. Spotting a gap in the market on her long commute to school, she bought lollies wholesale to sell to other students. "I saw an opportunity. I thought, 'There are a lot of kids here who are hungry,'" she explains.

At 16, having relocated to Tasmania from NSW, Vasicek began making jewellery and selling it at Hobart's Salamanca Markets. While it was a good earner, Vasicek planned a more conventional career path. Then, in the last year of her Arts/Law degree, something happened that changed her law career plans. "I never thought I could do my jewellery business as a career," she says. "But when I was finishing up my degree, I won a Global Student Entrepreneur Award. It gave me the idea that I could."

"We started building customer rapport and created this beautiful community and word-of-mouth started spreading."

Made in Tasmania

Vasicek opened jewellery store Francesca Collections on the outskirts of Hobart in 2013. "I'm so thankful for being in Tasmania," she says. "My first store was $400 a week for a shop with a studio upstairs. In any other major city that would be so much more expensive." Within six months she had hired her first employee. "We started building customer rapport and created this beautiful community and word-of-mouth started spreading. In our first year, demand outstripped supply. We were running upstairs to get a piece of jewellery to put out," Vasicek recalls.

The business was soon doing well enough to justify a move to bigger premises in Hobart's CBD and taking on more staff. Although initially knocked back for the business loan she needed for the $75,000 per annum rent ("My bank manager was so passionate about what we were doing that she called the highest person that she could to get our loan approved"), Vasicek had no qualms about scaling up, despite the costs involved. Her gamble paid off. "From the day we opened [at the new premises], we quadrupled revenue," she says.

A valuable lesson

Like any business owner, Vasicek has had setbacks. One morning she turned up to her shop in Hobart to find $20,000 worth of stock and $400 in cash stolen. "Everything was gone and we were underinsured," she says. "I was only 23 and I didn't think insurance was that important; I never really knew what I was insured for." Having learnt a hard lesson, Vasicek struck up a close business relationship with her Steadfast insurance broker, Deb. "I’ve got enough on my plate managing a growing business without trying to keep on top of all the details of insurance policies, which is where Deb is great," Vasicek says. "She’s constantly checking in to make sure I have the right level of business insurance cover for the current size of the business and that I’ve got all my policies for things such as workers' comp up to date."

If you'd like to make sure you’ve got the right business insurance for your needs, talk to a Steadfast insurance broker today.

Interstate expansion

Once the larger Hobart store was established, Vasicek began thinking about expanding to the mainland. "I started touching base with people," she says. She was asked to open a pop-up shop at Melbourne Central shopping centre. In August 2016, she opened a store there instead. She now employs 27 staff and hopes to employ more. "We're always looking at how we can grow in the safest way possible," she says. Though she now avoids unnecessary risks, Vasicek advises other would-be entrepreneurs to jump in and learn from their experiences. "I measure success by how much I learn. When you fail you learn things and get better," she says. 

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